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Monday, January 28, 2008

Right Brain "Baby Mind" Learning

Definitely there are occasions in adult life where it is useful to go into "direct absorb" mode and not filter learning through language.
Take for instance learning any movement skill, such as juggling...playing on a pinball machine, pool, golf, the directing of Alexander Technique, or a skill that involves another language such as playing a musical instrument.

What I prefer to determine, as an adult, is if this person I might be learning from is "worthy" to be absorbed in this completely open way. Then I deliberately open myself to them - as wide as possible and - take them and the skill in. There is no dividing line.

It actually happened not long ago for me. I was visiting a fellow collegue of Alexander Technique to trade work with him. He showed me this x-ray of his lower back; evidently four months previously, he had gotten into an unfortunate auto accident. The seat had come apart and crushed his tailbone so that it had to be removed. Usually when this must occur, the rest of the vertebrae above collapses into the empty space occupied by the tailbone. But here was the x-ray that showed this was not happening. He believed this condition of affairs reflected his discipline of deepening his work in Alexander Technique. I agreed. When he did table work with me, I was most happy to reinforce the sense he had of direction, as he encouraged me when it was my turn to move away from old patterns concerning how I had learned to walk from doing something funny to myself in the area of my hips. The effect was superb; for only the second time in my life I was able to completely move out of the twisted way I had learned to walk as a child.

Now I would say that my ability to absorb this information had to occur on a pre-verbal level, possibly because I had learned to walk incorrectly before I learned to talk. It's a common experience in learning Alexander Technique that the teacher will indicate a motion at odds with the student's established assumptions - and this was no different. It was such a surprising direction, which yielded an amazing result that I had to ask - what happened there? To which he replied - "think of that as dynamic opposition."

Anyway - in my life this "baby-mind" ability to absorb beyond language is still happily an occasional event.

Friday, January 25, 2008


A good question came in as a comment in my last post...

What makes the difference between "genuine shape-shifting" and "applying your own thought patterns to the assumed "other perspective"?

I think what you're asking is how do you tell the difference between "shape shifting" and imposing a variation of your own ways that are really another brand of second-guessing?

The reason I would restate this question is I have gotten many benefits from checking out and clarifying meaning by communicating how I understand the other person who is responding to me. I might do that by asking questions or by responding to what I think they mean to check out if my guessing matches. I only learned to do this because my supposing was wrong! I also learned that, compared to shape shifting, it was a more respectful way of learning about a person's values - by asking.

People often tend to second-guess to address their own interests, so that's another main comparison between shape shifting and second-guessing. I would ask myself, does the motive for the guessing address an interest I have, and what is that interest? The answer usually is that almost every motive comes from some sort of self-interest. It's quite telling exactly what the motives are. Often there are many motives, and it's telling what order the hierarchy of this list might contain.

I first realized that my talent for shape-shifting originally came from a sincere desire for approval from others, coupled with not having any clue how to choose which one of the many codes of mannerly behavior I should be applying. So I would merely open myself and take away my own questions to experience what it would be like to actually be the other person.

As I suspended my desire for approval, I began to observe things about ways the other person felt about themselves and the world that went far beyond my own purposes. This is what allows me to emulate - essentially stand in another man's shoes for awhile.

I began to regard mannerliness as merely communicating a desire and intention to please - usually without the ability to actually do so because of an unfamiliarity with that person's unique values. So I assumed that it was more efficient to find a way to read or to directly absorb each person's unique values, rather than to merely be mannerly. Of course, when I eventually ran into some people who really did want mannerliness and felt there existed a code of how people "should" treat each other...I felt as if I was being held at arms' length!

The advantages are that you usually do have the other person present to ask and respond to what you do. But what you do usually isn't the point - it's how you read the way the other person interprets significance and meaning - which is usually different from the meanings that you would assign and sometimes wildly different. You can check out to see what your guessing means by asking the person. Or you can do whatever you are guessing at and note how they respond.

But all this is akin to conducting a scientific experiment and noting results in order to amass enough information to use. As a shape-shifter, I more often emulate what the other person seems to be doing, without question, to see where it takes me. I make observations what it is "like" to "be" the other person as I'm hanging out with them, while suspending my own goals and concerns.

The other means I use to enhance shape-shifting ability is to search for a positive motive of why another person acts the way they do. This can be a creative challenge. More commonly, when people confront a motive that doesn't make any sense to them, they are so quick to assign a negative motive to it. This is a clue that you are second-guessing and assigning your own values to another person's behavior, rather than shape shifting without value judgements being present. I believe that finding negative motives to explain other people's behavior usually comes from a reaction for self-protection.

Although there are many situations where the shit hits the fan in people's lives and leaves much to clean up later from their apparent purposeful behavior, I do not believe that anyone does anything for a negative reason. People merely can be terribly short-sighted and come up with some solutions to their concerns that have some serious drawbacks they did not count on or foresee. In some cases, people accept these choices come with these particular drawbacks and it doesn't even occur to them that there could be other ways or means that wouldn't include these problems that are occuring. I think that's where creative problem solving comes in. Finding out and agreeing on criteria is crucial in these situations. The ability to guess correctly the foundations of criteria will make you seem to another person as if you are reading their mind.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


Exactly how specific people come to decide on ideals that guide courses of action is fascinating to me. As I become close to people who reveal their core experiences to me, I have observed that these core experiences that guiding ideals come from are some extent cultural and based on training, and to some extent they can be petty, disillisionist or self-seeking, which must be compassionately understood as the human condition. But in some rare people, their motivational ideals can be based on admirable deliberate responses beyond the irresistible call (or ravages) of conditioning and circumstance.

I think of it as "diversity in action." Each of us is essentially our own microcosm of meaning.

Practicing and sharpening my ability to "read", to second-guess, to emulate, to soak up or adopt other people's can be described in so many ways. A friend of mine describes this skill of mine as "shape-shifting." Honing my skill to be able to do this is what makes people so fascinating to me. Every once in awhile I will encounter someone with an especially unique view of reality that has been working for them quite well - as well as those who are quite dysfunctional but charmingly unique. I find myself being friends with people who are quite difficult for others to get along with, and somehow, I tend to dodge the ways most people get into trouble being close to them.

Especially when I meet people, I regretfully find myself not listening to what they are saying - but I am paying rapt attention to how they are thinking as they talk. I'm observing what might motivate them to jump from one subject to another, what are their associative pathways? What sorts of guiding ideals would motivate a comment such as what I am hearing? Rather than settling on the first motives that occur to me, I check out and test my hypothesis about them over time. At some time I might ask them directly, which throws some people for a loop and charms others. Sometimes people can't answer me, which sometimes has meant they have interesting reasons for hiding their motives from themselves.

Why would I do such a thing? Doing all this allows me to understand someone's motives for action and response. This gives me a number of advantages for my own education as well as for communication. For instance, I can emulate what I might later regard as their most useful thinking strategies for how they operate in their unique world definitions in certain, more appropriate, situations for which these responses were crafted - or for at least the time I spend communicating with them. As I recognize the appropriate circumstance, I might think of it as wearing the thinking hat of "so and so."

My skills are a little disconcerting for others. For instance, some people feel proud about being the product of their conditioning. These sorts of people cannot understand my ability to choose my orientation of appreciating different world-views, to "shape-shift" - let alone my skill to be able to change my appreciation of "alternate" realities or ways of thinking at will. It freaks them out that I can do this "shape-shifting" and they cannot, or it makes them feel sorely limited and this upsets them. Or they believe me to be dishonest for being able to switch my orientation world-view. From others who suppose that I truely am what I appear to be, I have often had the comment that they regard me to be "just like they are." Because I supposed that this was impossible for me to be "just like" so many different people, early on I reasoned that this must have to do with a natural talent I seem to have. So, I polished this "talent" and this is where it has brought me.